GROUP discussions are used by the B-schools as a selection tool because they provide a lot of useful information about the candidate’s personality in a very short time. GDs are used to assess certain group skills that cannot be evaluated in an interview situation. These skills include leadership skills, social skills, listening and articulation skills, situation handing ability and interpersonal ability. A typical GD involves 8 to 12 participants sitting in a circle or semicircle discussing a topic for a stipulated time, usually for 15 to 20 minutes. Most GDs follow one of the three formats: Structured, Unstructured, or Specialized.
1. Regular Structured GDs:
Here the time limits and topic is defined. No consensus expected at the end. No leader is to be selected for facilitating the process. These are easier to handle. Topics chosen are usually general and do not require technical knowledge.
2. Unstructured GDs:
Choosing a leader is mandatory and the group has to reach a consensus at the end of the GD. The leader has to direct the group, set the tone for discussion and control the dynamics of the group. Things are sometimes made more complicated by asking the group to propose a topic, discuss it and reach a consensus.
3. Specialised GDs:
These include role-plays or scripted GDs where the candidates are given a certain brief about a role that they need to play. For example, a business situation where to companies are negotiating a deal may be used. Candidates would be given the profile of the two CEOs, marketing managers, HR managers, advisors, and a neutral entity like a consultant. Alternatively, candidates could be given the role of the five Pandavas and the main Kauravas negotiating the distribution of their kingdom in 20th century setting.
Content Vs Process
It is crucial to understand the difference. Content refers to things like your level of preparation, the ability to organize your thoughts in a logical way, understand the topic in its totality and the ability to innovate. Process includes manner of expression, communication skills, body language and the attitude of the person.
Most candidates are preoccupied with process. Consequently, all too vital questions like ‘what should I say? ’,’ do I have enough reasoning to sustain my line of argument? ’,’can I think of examples to substantiate my logic? ’, take a back seat. A preoccupation with process alone is fraught with disastrous results. Both content and process are equally important for an effective contribution to a GD.
Take A One Minute Pause:
This is the only way to ensure that you perform above a threshold level of quality. Take your mind off the context for one minute. Utilise this one minute to focus on WHAT you are going to say and to organize your thoughts. All this must be done much before you are swept away in the maelstrom which will follow.
Critical Success Factors In A GD:
Roles People Play
- Innovativeness: Ability to have an entirely different perspective.
- Quality Of Content: It shows the level of preparedness.
- Logical Ability: Ability to reason, think and debate the pros and cons.
- Behavioural Skills: Aggressiveness is negative while assertiveness is positive. Assertiveness is standing on your own feet, while aggression is trampling on others’ feet.
- Communication: This includes articulation, listening and body language. Clarity of thought leads to articulate language and frequent and consistent participation. Fundamental knowledge of language is all one needs.
- Leadership: Leadership involves all the above skills. More importantly, the fundamental strength that you need to portray to be effective is MOBILITY. It is mobility that lets you demonstrate leadership skill as the context demands.
Broadly speaking, participants play the following familiar roles in a GD.
1. Mr. Brain/Plant
He brings in a lot of substance and comes up with wide interpretations of the topic.
Downside: It is difficult to stop him, as he is preoccupied with topic discussion as opposed to group discussion. He is happily obvious to simple things like who is sitting next to him. At the end of the GD if you happen to ask him whether the person sitting next to him was a boy or a girl, the answer would likely be ‘I do not know’.
He is the sales man who can sell anything, has the gift of the gab, a very strong ability to relate to people and be at the centre of things.
Downside: He does not usually come up with original thoughts himself. Needs Mr. Brains to feed him with readymade ideas that he can sell.
His role is to maintain order in the group, usually content is low.
Pre-occupied with directing the group process such as controlling entry and exit of participants.
He is crucial for meeting time commitments made to the panel. Especially, in ensuring consensus.
He criticises everybody’s points without contributing anything new.
5. The Butcher
Does great service to the group by enhancing the quality of content by not letting participants get away with just about anything.
Is most welcome in a group which has one or two aggressive elements in it.
6. The Spectator or The Passenger
Is involved in the proceedings but plays a limited role.
Contribution is very limited and does not affect the out come of the group task.
So What Role Should You Specialise In?
Each role has several benefits. However, strong attachment to any single role throughout the GD could limit your chances of success.
What is more important is that you demonstrate leadership at every moment. You must be able to move across these roles as the situation demands. Anyone seen to be Performing more than three of these roles will definitely make a strong impact on the on the panel. Mobility is the keyword in becoming effective in GDs.
The key to success in GDs is to be able to effortlessly move from one role to the other depending on what the situation demands.
Holding Centre-stage In A GD
PEST Analysis: Pest basically stands for aspects of the topic which pertain to
There are certain tricks that help you retain centre-stage for longer durations on time and which provide you with many chances to speak. However, these should be used with caution, and at appropriate moments, like the legendary Brahmastra in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Give data, examples, anecdotes, survey figures, compelling short stories. This gives people the impression that you know a lot, also, participants do not brand you a bore or Mr. Brains. In this way you avoid facing interjections or arguments. However, be sure of the validity/relevance of your data or story. Always remember the age-old formula for success: KISS-Keep It Short, Stupid.
For example, you can start with a basic blasting of the politicians in the context of the topic and you will have the whole group swearing by you.
Use hand motions. When you start speaking, use your hands to count the points on your fingers. Everyone will get impression that you have several well-structured points in your head and they will not mess around with you.
Cardinal Sins In A GD/Interview
- Do not use slang like Yaar, Univ, Princi, etc.
- Do not pepper your language with an accent.
- Do not use verbal tics such as Hmm, like, But, etc.
- Do not use verbal stresses unless a method actor like Al Pacino or Naseeruddin Shah trains you for it.
- Never bluff as the panel will easily figure out that you are an accomplished liar.
- Never interrupt or finish a sentence for an interviewer.
- Never show up late.
- Never get defensive or try to rationalise.
- No negative words about anyone.
- Never give an answer that does not answer the question asked.
- Never allow yourself to lose focus after a string of unanswered questions.